By Bud Wilkinson of RIDE-CT.com
When the “down low” noise began, I cannot recall. Maybe sometime last year. It became more persistent, although not consistent, this spring. Something definitely seemed wrong with my 1994 BMW R100RT, but I couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Friends rode it and didn’t hear a thing. Maybe it was my imagination.
A month or so ago, though, at my urging, BMW lover Jack Phelps (left) of Salisbury took it for a spin. He returned with a snap diagnosis of either a bad clutch spring or bad bearing, and warned that the bike might be ripe for catastrophic failure. I rode it home, parked it and took my 1974 Honda CB750 Four to the vintage meet in Rhinebeck where I ran into Max Stratton, owner of Max BMW in Brookfield. He told me to bring it down for a thorough going-over, so I did.
The phone call with the bad news came Friday morning. As gently as he could, master tech Phil Cheney reported total transmission failure. The cost of a rebuild would likely run $4,000 – the bearings alone costing $1,500. There were other problems, too. Top end seals needed replacing and the fairing needed attention. The total tab might run as high as $6,000. A lot of money for an 18-year-old bike.
Cheney said Max’s would be glad to do it, but the bike really wasn’t worth it. He suggested one option might be to part it out online for a few hundred dollars. What to do? What to do? I gulped and told him to send it home for burial.
Once the shock had worn off, I started calling and emailing friends, acquaintances, mechanics and anyone who might be able to offer good advice. That’s one of the benefits of being a motojournalist. You know folks. I also started looking online for used transmissions and found two for between $400 and $450. An independent mechanic might be able to do the job more reasonably. Still, the tab will probably be stiff for a bike with 58,000 miles that has an NADA average retail value of only $1,460 in “good” condition.
One person I spoke with had a transmission and offered to sell me it and install it for $1,000. He was also willing to buy the bike for $1 per cc, a total of $980. Another person offered a little more for it. What to do? What to do?
While searching for used transmissions, I also started studying the used bike market for possible replacement transportation. Maybe the time had come to divest of the “airhead” and add something new to the garage. The broken bike gets delivered later today. For now, it’ll go in the back of the garage. The options are these:
- Fix it and keep riding it.
- Fix it and sell it.
- Sell it as-is.
Could I maybe get $1,500 on Craigslist? There are airhead fiends who know their way around a transmission and could either fix it and ride it, or part it out. I certainly don’t have the patience or time to part it out. The question I keep asking myself is “Why does spending a grand to fix it sound so unreasonable, while selling it and adding a few more thousand for a replacement bike sound wiser?”
What to do? What to do?
Update: The bike was returned at 6 p.m. Friday and is now tucked in the back of the garage. I spent a portion of a Friday afternoon testing riding a replacement candidate that has two things going for it – price and reliability.